Just when it seemed that things could get no worse for workers and the poor, we are hit by the Quarterly Labour Force Survey from Statistics South Africa for the third quarter of 2017, which shows yet another rise in the rate of joblessness.
The figure that excludes those who have given up seeking work remains at 27.7%, the highest level since 2003 and 0.6% higher than in the same quarter in 2016.
But the more realistic, expanded figure, which includes those despairing job-seekers who wanted to work, but stopped looking for jobs, increased by 0.2% to 36.8% in the third quarter.
As a result 6.2 million South Africans are now without work – a 75 000 increase from the second quarter of 2017.
The survey showed a 92 000 growth in employment in the third quarter, but this number was offset by 33 000 extra job seekers during the period. Most of the new jobs were in the finance and other business sectors (68 000) and the community, social and personal services sectors (56 000).
For the South African Federation of Trade Unions however, the most worrying statistic of all in the survey is that 105 000 jobs were lost during the quarter in the key manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors. Given that each employed worker support as many as ten dependents, this means around a million South Africans are now in even deeper poverty than before.
These are the sectors which ought to be creating wealth and driving the economy ahead, but are in fact contracting at an alarming rate and leading to a job-loss bloodbath.
This is a catastrophe not only for all those workers in, or dependent on, these sectors, but for public service workers as well. Their jobs will also soon be in danger if the contraction in the industrial economy continues at this pace, because tax revenues will fall even further than the massive R50.8-billion drop in tax collection already announced in the MTBPS by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba This is likely to mean zero salary increases for government employees and the non-filling of vacancies.
Indirectly this continuous increase in unemployment is also having its effect on the employed workers. Employers are quick to take advantage of the rising number of workers desperate for a job at any price and this is reflected in the BankservAfrica Disposable Salary Index, which confirmed that real disposable take-home pay shrank for the first time in seven months on a year-on-year basis due to higher inflation in September 2017. It showed that disposable salaries declined by 1.3%.
23 years of pursuing neoliberal, pro-big business policies like GEAR and the National Development Plan and trying desperately to stop the credit rating agencies from down-grading the South African economy by pandering to their demands for austerity, have led to the catastrophe we face today.
And those ANC leaders who talk demagogically about ‘radical economic transformation’ are just as guilty as those who have themselves become billionaire capitalists. They have pursued identical non-radical and anti-transformative, neoliberal policies and, even worse have been implicated in the despicable looting of the economy through corruption, tender manipulation and fraud, all of which have made our economic crisis even worse.
That is why SAFTU has resolved to mobilise its members in the coming months, starting in November. We shall be hitting the streets to protest at the theft of the country’s wealth by both white monopoly capitalists and corrupt politicians and to demand genuine radical economic transformation in the interests of workers and the poor.
This transformation has to start with the realisation of the Freedom Charter’s call that the country’s wealth must belong to the people of South Africa, and the nationalization of key monopoly industries, the mines and the banks under democratic workers’ and community control.